Ever heard of Urchin Tracking Module, or UTM, tags?
It’s probably quite likely that you’ve come across them, but most people don’t really know what they’re for.
They’re the funny little parameters that you sometimes see tacked on the end of website addresses.
What do these tags do?
Basically, these tags allow you isolate and analyse your inbound traffic by source, medium, campaign, content, keywords etc. using a tool like Google Analytics.
This is best illustrated by an example…
A client of mine has an upcoming banner ad campaign that they are intending to run on two advertising networks. They have received two significantly different quotes per thousand impressions (CPM) of their ads. The client has decided to use the same ads across both networks and wants to understand the comparative value of each network – which one generates the best traffic? Which one offers better bang for buck? Is the more expensive network pulling the wool over the their eyes with their cost structure?
To make sure that we understand the relative value of the ads, we have instructed both ad networks to append the following UTM tags to all URLs in the campaign:
What do each of the parameters represent?
- Source is the referring website. Each network has a series of websites where the ads will run, and therefore we need to differentiate which website the traffic is emanating from.
- Medium is the type of creative. In this case, it’s purely a ‘banner’ campaign, but if we were doing other types of marketing/advertising (eg. email marketing) as part of this campaign, we would change this tag accordingly.
- Content is the ad format/size of the creative (ie. MREC, 468x60banner). For this campaign, we’re running with a variety of ad formats in different sizes.
- Campaign, in this case, is our Labour Day campaign – ‘labourday’.
Once traffic starts flowing through to our website with the UTM tags appended, we can slice and dice our traffic in Google Analytics to determine the quantity and quality of the traffic.
Quite apart from just learning the quantitative referrals to our website (noting that ‘clickthroughs’ cited by ad networks often vary significantly from ‘sessions’ recorded on the landing website), we can determine which referring website / which ad format / which medium / which campaign resulted in the most engaged visitors. To do this, we filter the traffic in Google Analytics and use metrics like number of pages viewed, time on site, bounce rate and number of ‘goals’ attained (in the case of a specific call-to-action, like a ‘sale’, ‘competition entry’ or a ‘newsletter sign up’). This information can then be linked to the campaign cost to determine even more insightful metrics such as cost per click, cost per acquisition, cost per sale, revenue per click, etc, which are comparable across sources.
Having done this analysis, it’s much easier to determine which paid advertising sources to use and which not to use. It also serves to keep your advertising account manager honest – if they know that you’re UTM-savvy and actively analysing the inbound stats, then they’re generally more transparent and less inclined to tell mistruths about the value of their advertising.
Now, UTM tags look fairly unfriendly to the non-technical person…thankfully, Google helps us out with a URL builder that will generate the full URL for you. You can access it here: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1033867?hl=en